Reconciliation Day Parade – 16 December every year
For the past ten years the Centre for Humanities Research’s Laboratory of Kinetic Objects has been engaged in a mutual education and arts initiative (along with partners Net Vir Pret, Handspring Puppet Company, uKwanda Puppetry and Design Collective, and Magpie Collective) in the village of Barrydale some three hours outside of Cape Town.
The creative cycle of the village has, for ten years now, been in a meaningful way, focussed around what is learned in this endeavour: with musical composition and performance, script-writing, costume design, acting and puppetry-design and manipulation all activities that engage the complex and diverse talents of school children.
Large questions about social justice, the history of slavery, environmental responsibility, water security and endangered species have all been addressed through deft playfulness.
Because this is the tenth year of the Barrydale Parade, we are planning a kind of ‘greatest hits’ event. There will be no Parade, as such, because of concerns about Covid; rather there will be four small-scale shows (although they still use the large-scale puppets). The scripts have been written through workshops, and will each be rehearsed and performed in small and medically safe groups of youngsters, mentors and educators; and these events will be filmed.
This has generated a great deal of interest in the processes of film-making, and Net Vir Pret has been working with a film and media activist who recently moved to the village. The young artists have been exploring the world of sound, and making soundscapes of Barrydale, as well as working on learning about documentary as they archive the history of the parade.
There will be four films made with and by the young people of Barrydale, as part of the arts education process, which this year expands from live performance and puppetry arts, to film and sound-composition. These films will be pre-recorded and live-streamed. There will no doubt be an impact on the income generated for Barrydale, but we have to hope that the gains in distribution and circulation of these small films will in the future draw visitors back to the village in greater numbers, once people observe for themselves what a wonderfully beautiful village this is, as communities try to come to terms with the legacies of apartheid in the region.
The Net Vir Pret Barrydalers are environmental activists, with a deep commitment to the wellness of their region. This makes it a very special context indeed.
The four films will engage old favourites- the life-sized elephant puppets; dassies (rock hyraxes), the giant red-fin fish, the eland, the ostrich, the secretary bird.
One production in particular explores the distress and loss of the past year; as its narrative arises out of a work written and conceived by the Net Vir Pret young artists who this year had somehow to work through the anguish of losing a young woman in the village through a violent crime. The film tells of a young woman afraid of a shadow that she feels pursues her, and how she is strengthened and helped through the intervention of a tortoise and a secretary-bird.
Historical context of Barrydale Parade by Shane Petzer